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Soualiga Newsday Features (2035)

Impress for success

SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY – By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert) - Customers are opinion multipliers, both in a positive and a negative sense. They pass on positive and negative perceptions to others by word of mouth. When negative, it can be destructive. When positive, it is preciously constructive and the lowest-cost manner of promoting a service or business. Customers want to be impressed. After all, that is what they are paying for. Acquiring new customers is more difficult and costly than keeping existing ones. Losing an existing customer is twice as expensive: for one, it is a loss for the business, and secondly, a replacement customer needs to be found which may take a lot of marketing effort.

Customer orientation requires acting the way the customer likes it and wants it! It is not only the offered service that determines success; equally important is the way that customers are treated.

Customer friendliness says, “We are happy that you are a customer!” Keep an ideal customer experience in mind and then try to offer that ideal experience. Exceed your customers’ expectations

and make them feel great.

If scientists ever find out where the center of the universe is, some people will be disappointed

that they’re not it. You may not want to call your business ‘Center-of-the-Universe’ either. But, how

about placing a sign at the entrance to remind your customers:

‘Caution! By entering this facility, you are becoming the center of our attention’

Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marquis of Dalí de Púbol was a Spanish Surrealist artist. He granted the railway station of the city Perpignan in France an entry in the history of art when he named it the ‘Center of the Universe’ after having experienced there, in his words, “a sort of cosmic ecstasy, stronger than all those I had before. I experienced a precise vision of the construction of the universe.” Quick question: what title are you granting your airport, hotel or restaurant?

There is nothing wrong with giving customers the feeling that they are the center of the universe, without going as far as Dali’s cosmic ecstasy. Anyway, I will just have to give you two quotes of this world famous eccentric artist who claimed that he is not strange, but that he is just not normal. Quote one: “The thermometer of success is merely the jealousy of the malcontents,” which fits nicely in this article. The second one is something to think about: “Every morning when I wake up, I experience an exquisite joy —the joy of being Salvador Dalí— and I ask myself in rapture: What wonderful things is this Salvador Dalí going to accomplish today?”

The personal performance of any individual involved in a business, from the owner or manager to the person who cleans the toilet, contributes to the combined image of the establishment. Anyone who has the slightest contact with a customer is part of the image, even if the cleaning person only says ‘good morning’ with a smile when the customer walks by.

All providers in a chain of services at a tourism destination from arrival to departure contribute to the total image of the destination: airport, taxi, hotel, restaurant, merchants, yes even the security officer at entrance of the bank. The airport at the beginning or the end of a flight is part of the image of an airline or the tour operator who made the arrangements. You may say: “Why are you telling us that? We know that already”.

Aunt Emma already knew it a century ago. She did not have any education or training for it. Aunt Emma? ‘Tante Emma Laden’ is the German equivalent of the mom-and-pop store. Can you imagine Aunt Emma running the little general store in her village, years ago? Pure nostalgia! She knew all her customers by name. She could carry on pleasant chit-chat. She gave the little kids a piece of candy. She knew exactly about the shopping habits of her customers and tried to offer the right range of products. She could even give a cooking recipe or advice on how to remove fat stains from a shirt. Shopping at Tante Emma’s store always gave shoppers a good feeling, even if the prices were higher than at the supermarket. Tante Emma exercised customer relations management without having software or a computer for it.

Human contact on offer is special; time to listen, the exchange of whole sentences. The persons who represent a business or operation can sell a bit of their own personality along with the product and service. It often helps to make the customer experience unique. It could add a bit of authenticity of the culture of a destination. Isn’t that what is sometimes missing from customer relations that only follow a formal training protocol?

About the author.

Cdr. Bud Slabbaert is the Chairman and Coordinator of the Caribbean Aviation Meetup, an annual results and solution oriented conference for stakeholders of ‘airlift’ in the Caribbean which will be June 16-18 on St.Maarten. Mr. Slabbaert’s background is accentuated by aviation business development, strategic communication, and journalism.

AUTHOR BUD

Cdr. Bud Slabbaert 

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Dutch tourist board hopes influencers will help spread tourism

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch tourist board has invited seven so-called influencers to the Netherlands in an effort to help spread tourist away from the main attractions.

Together, the seven bloggers have 500,000 followers on social media and the NBTC hopes that by showing them other parts of the country, they will get the word out that there is more to the Netherlands than Amsterdam.

The organised tour took the group – mainly young American women – to Nijmegen, Arnhem and Apeldoorn – in a tour closely linked to the Liberation of the country from the Nazis 75 years ago this spring.

‘We are looking for quality tourists,’ NBTC spokeswoman Elsje van Vuuren told NOS, who followed the tour.

The tourist board said last spring it is to stop actively promoting the Netherlands as a holiday destination because its main attractions – the canals, tulips and windmills – are becoming overcrowded.

In 2018, it developed the HollandCity to try to spread tourists outside the main hotspots of Amsterdam, fishing villages and the bulb fields. HollandCity strategy involves promoting the Netherlands as a single metropolis with lots of districts, such as Lake District Friesland and Design District Eindhoven.

The influencer promo trip is a part of that strategy to show other parts of the country and, in the words of junior economic minister Mona Keijzer, should ‘encourage visitors to go to less well-known parts of the country’ in order to spread the burden and create jobs in the provinces.

Last year, some 20 million foreign tourists came to the Netherlands and Amsterdam was by far the most popular attraction.

(DutchNews)

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Pigs beaten in undercover images from Dutch slaughterhouse

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – An animal welfare group has published undercover footage of pigs in a slaughterhouse being beaten with paddles and an apparently crippled animal being pulled by the tail.

Ongehoord claims that the hours of images were made in August 2019 by ‘Johan’, a volunteer for the group working at the Westfort slaughterhouse in IJsselstein.

The slaughterhouse, whose website says it sells ‘sustainable meat from the Netherlands’ told RTL Nieuws that it was investigating the images and implementing immediate measures to ensure poor treatment does not happen in future.

‘Harsh herding and beating pigs isn’t allowed and shouldn’t be allowed,’ it said in a statement. ‘We take full responsibility for this and will implement [a set of] measures.

The permanent camera supervision will also be intensified and a team including two of our own vets will monitor the images.’

However, animal welfare experts told RTL Nieuws that beating animals in order to herd them – especially using the sharp side of a paddle – would count as ‘abuse’ and contravene European guidelines.

Carla Schouten, agriculture minister, called the images ‘unacceptable’ and pledged to reduce the speed of slaughter at such factories.

(DutchNews)

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Of Polls and Holes

CARIBBEAN (COMMENTARY – By Joel B. Liburd) - The quote above from Warren Buffet exemplifies exactly why pollsters are making a killing in recent times when an election is called. Polling is a methodology employed by social scientists to understand trends and behaviours. Scholars have spent decades perfecting it as a scientific tool to understand social phenomena. From Jurgen Habermas and his theory of the Public Sphere, to James Halloran and his research on multimodal communication, polling data has become an increasingly valuable commodity, ironically for a purpose for which it was not intended. Influence.

 'Tis the season where politics meets politricks and where gimmickry melds with "gimme-gimme". Alas, elections are nigh. But apart from the regular expectations of campaigning, canvassing and complaining, the atmosphere is one that nurtures another facet of the process of democracy. The polls.

Kittitians especially have had it up to *here* with polls and surveys. In the beginning, many subscribed out of sheer curiosity, or were pleased to be the respectful centre of a stranger's attention for a few minutes. After a while, it just got silly. Many persons refuse to be polled, either out of fear of exposing their innermost feelings and opinions, or caution that there may be repercussions for their thoughts. It's the fundamental reason why democratic elections usually employ the "secret ballot" method, to protect the voters' opinion and decisions.

It means being able to interact comfortably with persons who hold opposing philosophical and political views, at least, until the next campaign season arrives.

Polling is not an easy task. To get a measurable snapshot of a population's views means designing questions that are easy, and not intimidating; being short, but concise; and most importantly, trying to ask key questions in different ways, to avoid bias or prejudice by the survey participant. Polls need to be tested rigorously internally, to ensure that credible and verifiable data can be extracted, and that the necessary adjustments can be made before the poll is finally distributed.

Distribution brings its own set of headaches. The biggest one is sampling. Since it is impossible to survey an entire population – especially multiple times – pollsters stick to a manageable number of responses (or representative sample) in order to extrapolate data to paint a picture of a community. But sampling has its inherent issues. Most people are familiar with "random sampling" as is used in the game show Family Feud. However, political polling has nothing to do with the types of questions that Steve Harvey asks. As a political tool, a randomly sampled poll is arguable quite flawed... some respondents might be party sycophants and slant their answers either all to the left or all to the right. Others may not intend to vote, and so add unnecessary data to the result. Some folks may not even be eligible to vote and will answer questions haphazardly, to simply give a response.

More appropriate methodologies tend to employ techniques that incorporate stratified or purposive sampling methods in order to hone in on the particular topic or effect being examined. This creates the foundation for more credible data... asking actual registered voters - away from party-centric geographical locations - their thoughts as they mull their decision.

Apart from the survey tool, there is the human element – that bias that determines who the interviewer approaches and who accepts the interviewer's approach. Even from that initial contact, bias plays a massive role, and can skew even the greatest error of margin as personal preferences and prejudices come into play for both parties involved in the exercise.

The poll agent will obviously have their personal views on the topic being examined, and because of mere human nature, these views can be projected subconsciously by body language and inflections of voice while administering the survey questions.

That's one of the key reasons why there has been a boom in online survey services – to remove the element of human bias. But this comes at the great cost of a trained pollster not being able to read the body language of the interviewee.

It is well known that unless you're in China, North Korea, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Iran or the Republic of Congo (and the likes), leaders change. When a democratic nation goes to the polls (except in the cases of proportional representation), it's a first-past-the-post race. What is also very established is that most of these types of democracies are largely two-party systems.

So if there are two major parties, let's presume largely splitting the populations evenly, then how does the administration change? Simple. The swing vote. This is the Holy Grail for pollsters... identifying these voters and giving them every reason to turn them favourably on Election Day.

These voters are usually educated or experienced enough to disregard the electoral manna flowing from politicians' campaigning lips. They look, listen and think. Some voters even make up their minds while walking to the polling station. Some have a last look at the ballot sheet and then make the crucial decision. This points to fact that political parties can – and do – take their base supporters for granted, and that the focus is always on getting the swing vote your way, which begets the lofty promises, baby-kissing and the overwhelming amount of grassroots public appearances in the run-up to the big day.

Pollsters have realised that their data is another critical tool in peddling influence. No one likes to be on a losing team. It's probably why people groan when whenever the West Indies embark on a new tour, or why Lionel Messi doesn't smile while playing for the national team.

Juggling figures to indicate to the swing voters that they may be on the losing team does two things; either influences them to change their vote, or encourages them to abstain from voting, which in both cases is a win for the pollster and the party that is paying him. This is a highly unethical practice.

As stated before, polls were designed to be a measuring tool, and not a weapon against a person's own opinion in his/her independent thought.

This leads to the recent string of rather desperate utterances from pollster Peter Wickham, who is crunching the figures for Prime Minister Timothy Harris' Team Unity arrangement. It is rather disappointing that the vastly experienced Wickham has stooped so low as to wring every potential drop of political promise from his dated dataset, to appease the coalition and its supporters.

That's the very reason why former Barbados DLP Member of Parliament Robert Morris accused Wickham of unscientific methods and sensational analysis of what were decidedly unsexy figures, in the hindsight of Mia Mottley's historic win at the 2018 polls. A frustrated Wickham, on that occasion, seemed unable to respond to Morris academically, and chose instead to use insulting language to defend the accusation, calling the MP a "common yard fowl".

On the other hand, renowned pollster Bill Johnson is crunching the numbers for the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP), and apart from a single major press release last year stating that Labour was comfortably poised, there's been nothing else from that quarter. It's very close to a proper strategy – polls should advise the campaign machinery on its area of focus, and keep the other side wondering about the current status and the next move. According to former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, "Leaders are responsible not for running public opinion polls, but for the consequences of their actions." Using that thought as a yardstick, SKNLP Political Leader Dr Denzil Douglas certainly seems to be in the driver's seat.

But Barbados was not the only faux pas for Wickham's Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) outfit. Although he called the winner for Dominica, the myriad of reports of inconsistencies and subsequent protests in that November 2019 election, further illustrates the fact that his figures were pointing the wrong way. He had projected that Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt would lose support, but hold on to the Prime Ministership. In reality, all Wickham did was play all the numbers on the roulette table... you can't really win, but you definitely don't lose.

Last year as well, Wickham foolishly misread the Jamaican vibes in the East Portland bye-election, and confidently pronounced that People's National Party candidate Damion Crawford was miles ahead of Jamaica Labour Party's Ann-Marie Vaz. When the votes were counted, the constituency had their first JLP MP in more than two decades.

But Wickham's memory of his inconsistent, unscientific methods seems to have faded. In 2006, his polls favoured St. Lucia Labour Party for the win, but it was the United Workers Party that won a comfortable victory.

Then in 2008, he went to Grenadian election would be won by the New National Party. Instead, the National Democratic Congress took 11 of the 15 seats.

Again, in 2013, Wickham tried predicting the election in his home country of Barbados. He said that the political pulse indicated, that the Barbados Labour Party would form the government. In the end, his "scientific" techniques and pulse-reading were proven wrong as the incumbent Democratic Labour Party won another term in office.

Most shamefully was Wickham's abject failure in Trinidad and Tobago in 2007. CADRES was hired by Winston Dookeran's "third force" Congress of the People (COP) party at the end of September, to poll for the General Election that took place on November 5 that year. His projection was 30% for COP, with Patrick Manning's People's National Movement (PNM) and Basdeo Panday's United National Congress trailing with 23% and 10% respectively. Although the COP managed a massive 148,000 votes, the party did not win a single one of the 41 seats up for grabs, and the PNM romped into office with 26 seats, leaving the UNC Opposition with 15. Wickham fled Trinidad with a very firm tail between his legs.

One probable cause for Wickham's difficulty in accurately predicting outcomes could be his stated preference for a form of polling known as "swing analysis", which was popular worldwide in the 80s and 90s. However, this technique yielded highly inaccurate results – most notably in the United Kingdom in 1992 - and has been largely abandoned.

Wickham – who recently married his openly gay long-time partner, Italian Giancarlo Cardinale – is now showing exactly how much he really has in common with Harris and PAM Leader Shawn Richards. The most glaring is the lack of leadership and an increasing lack of diligence, ethics and responsibility. Wickham, as a consultant contracted to the Team Unity client, is now behaving as if he is a part of the Federal government, filling either a role for financial enrichment, or filling a hole of disenchantment within the tenuous coalition arrangement.

Wickham of all people should know that when the election dust is cleared, he has to search for the next engagement, and simply saying (incorrectly) "I've never been wrong" is not as comforting as actually doing it right!

Joel B. Liburd
Communications Consultant, Basseterre/Quebec

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Interim Director of PSS expresses optimism about the future of the Post Office

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) — Interim Director of Postal Services Sint Maarten (PSS) Marinka Gumbs stated that since assuming the post of Interim Director of PSS, she has taken stock of some of the financial and operational challenges that are facing the organization.

Though some of these issues are a direct result of our responsibilities since becoming an autonomous country, they need to be dealt with without delay so that PSS can rediscover its potential. She noted that it is no secret that postal services around the world are experiencing a serious decline in their core business since the dawn of the internet.

Undoubtedly, advanced technologies and the presence of highly competitive package delivery businesses underscores and intensifies these challenges even more. Gumbs is, therefore, already exploring other viable options such as e-Commerce, which, in her opinion, will provide many opportunities for financial growth for the post office.

“In the coming months, the focus will be placed on our internal matters, which includes reevaluating our operations and rebranding our image to serve our country better. We will be rolling out new services and enhancing the services that we are already providing. These initiatives, however, cannot be accomplished without the involvement of the government, board, management, and staff, of course.

Despite the odds, PSS has been fortunate to retain quite a few experienced and longstanding employees of the post office during a very difficult time for the organization. I am confident that these individuals and newcomers can play an important role in the realization of new and promising initiatives.

Gumbs also amplified that stakeholder involvement and public-private partnerships are equally important for the future of PSS. Immediately identified is the issue of returned mail. Every month, PSS is faced with an enormous amount of returned mail.

This issue is a concern for us, and it also concludes that since hurricanes Irma and Maria, we are more challenged than ever before in delivering mail to citizens. Many persons are still displaced or for unknown reasons, have not updated their information at the Civil Registry offices.

Management, therefore, intends to meet with representatives of government and other agencies to discuss how we can tackle this and other matters seriously and structurally. In closing, Gumbs reiterated that postal services globally have a legal obligation and an important role to play in their respective countries.

As such, we cannot become complacent because of technology and other threats. “PSS must look at the opportunities in the challenges that exist and capitalize on these if we want to chart a new direction, regain our presence and financial viability.”

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SXM DOET Funding Deadline This Friday

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - All community organizations are reminded to register their projects and apply for funding for SXM DOET on www.sxmdoet.com this week. The funding deadline is this Friday, January 31.

This year SXM DOET is taking place on March 13 and 14. All community organizations; schools, daycares, sports clubs, foundations, non-profits etc. are encouraged to participate by registering and executing one or more SXM DOET projects.

Up to $650 is available for each project, and once projects are registered online, volunteers will be able to sign up to make projects a reality during the days of SXM DOET.

Today, Thursday 30, SXM DOET coordinators will also have a ‘walk-in day’ for any organizations that need help registering online and/or applying for funding. Persons are invited to come by between 12 pm and 6 pm at the Samenwerkende Fondsen Office in Madame Estate.

For directions or questions SXM DOET Coordinators can be contacted via: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or +1(721)5860808. More information about the event can be found on www.sxmdoet.com or facebook.com/sxmdoet.

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Woman found not guilty of killing two babies at second trial

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A 41-year-old woman from Amersfoort has been found not guilty of killing her two babies for a second time. The babies were found hidden in her home in 2014 after Johanna H turned herself into the police.

She was first found not guilty by a lower court, which ruled the cause of death could not be established and no-one could say for certain if the babies were born dead or alive.

But the Supreme Court later ruled that the case be referred back to the appeal court for second trial. The babies were born in 2002 and 2004. H hit the babies in a beauty case and a biscuit tin and hid them in her home.

Both babies showed stunted growth even though they had been carried almost to term. H had continued to drink heavily, smoke and use drugs through the pregnancies, the court was told.

The public prosecution department had said H should be sent to psychiatric prison.

(DutchNews)

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Primary schools present their plans to cope with teacher shortages

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Primary schools in Amsterdam have presented their plans for combating the shortage of teachers to education minister Arie Slob, and a cut to a four-day week is one of the suggestions.

The shortage of qualified staff is no longer sustainable and a ‘generation of children are growing up without the education they deserve,’ the plan states. The city needs to recruit 360 teachers as a matter of urgency.

The schools say that more ‘guest teachers’, classroom assistants and other unqualified staff will end up in front of the class – and could take over on the fifth day. Larger class sizes and scrapping some lessons is also an option.

In addition, more priority should also be given to training and keeping people who want to switch careers and move into teaching, the schools say. Part of this should be in the form of an extra allowance to cope with the cost of living in the capital, where housing is both expensive and scarce.

Head teachers are also considering seconding staff to other schools where shortages are more acute. In Amsterdam, for example, the shortage of teachers in some schools is increasing inequality of opportunity between pupils of different backgrounds, the report states.

In a reaction, Slob said he would allocate a further €9m to helping more would-be teachers change careers. However, the government will adhere to current rules about how many hours education children should have, he said.

The Hague and Rotterdam are also working on plans to combat the shortage of teachers, the Parool reported on Monday. The Hague needs 373 more full time teachers and Rotterdam 202.

(DutchNews)

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Crime Time

SAINT CHRISTOPHER & NEVIS (COMMENTARY – By Joel B. Liburd) - The Federation of St. Christopher and Nevis thought it had exhaled, finally. But that was soon shattered by gunshots in the still of the night that claimed the young life of a national athlete. After being ranked in 2018 as one of the Five Deadliest countries in the world, based on its per capita murder rate that was five times the global average, the Federation had not seen a drop of bloodshed for nearly eight months. Miracle or malaise?

While we would have prayed for the former, we know all too well that crime in any country is practically an institution. It is a business, somewhat like mergers, acquisitions, hostile takeovers, liquidation. Except that criminal activities are done with the human element as collateral, using blood money in underground economies that destabilise the very fabric of democracy.

Unlike poverty, ailing health and failing education systems, crime is one of the few of society's ills that one can simply throw money at. But strangely enough, too many ill-informed administrations – regionally and globally – have made the mistake of playing the soft hand with criminals.

Mind you, this is not a debate on retributive versus restorative justice, but rather examining how crime lords (yes, we now casually call them "lords") have turned to the same political and administrative systems that are supposed to hunt them down, and hoodwinked them into increased profit and protection for their anti-social activities.

There are too many studies to cite, that it is an accepted fact that the moral decay of mankind begins at home. Single mother, absentee father, bad company, missing rod of correction et al. This is further exacerbated by the conditioning in the immediate community and environment. For the most part, it is the lack of access to education and employment, which is where the State gets involved.

All human beings have dreams and aspirations, whether they're born in Manchester or McKnight. They want to be successful leaders, live comfortably, travel to places, educate their children, own their own homes and not be beholden to any neo-Colonial capitalist oppression, as their forefathers endured. Note that having "tigers on a gold leash" and "touching down inna the G5" is not the type of excessive opulence that should be included here.

In the region, many administrations have kept a corner of their beds warm for their respective society's killers, drug barons and contract mafia. It's for a simple reason really. The lifetime of a gang can span many decades, but a politician is only really sure of one term of five years in the Caribbean. It therefore makes sense for the weak, cowardly political leader to foster a symbiotic relationship between the lawmaker and the lawbreaker, so that each can retain their respective grasp on their perceived power base. In short, making crime pay.

In Trinidad and Tobago during the Patrick Manning era, for example, then-Minister of National Security Martin Joseph called the 500-plus murder toll "collateral damage". The takers of many young lives were allowed to continue their trade unhindered, and roam freely. The police detection rate for serious crimes was less than 15 percent; the conviction rate was in single digits.

In an act of desperation, Prime Minister Manning arranged a meeting with nearly two dozen of the country's top-level crime bosses to discuss peace at the now-infamous Crowne Plaza Peace Treaty on September 6, 2006 – months before he called general elections. Instead of bolstering the police service and addressing the case backlogs in the judiciary, the Prime Minister chose to bow to the feet of killers, promising them millions in box-drain contracts, road-sweeping contracts and prize money for community basketball leagues, if they would just stop making his government look bad. But crime rates went through the roof – everyone wanted a piece of this public-purse pie and kidnappings for ransom activated hundreds of millions in fast cash; beheadings and executions increased and "hot spot" zones and turfs dictated the daily commute of ordinary citizens.

In the ten years since that meeting, all the persons present were dead; only two by natural causes – Manning and the patriarch of the Sandy gang.

In 2010 though, Manning's successor, Kamla Persad-Bissessar seemed to have not learned from Manning's playbook, and instead appropriated $400 million to a programme called LifeSport. On paper, it sounded good; creating community programmes to keep at-risk youth off the street. Instead, the result was the creation of a crime force largely aligned to her party, with illiterate gangsters driving around in Range Rovers and sporting gilded AK47s. Members of this new faction have been arrested and charged with the execution of the country's Director of Public Prosecution, Dana Seetahal, on May 4, 2014. But these killers and "dons" are far from languishing behind bars, as they continue to live a luxurious jail life and continue to run their empires from behind the safety of their cells.

Political alignment to violent gangs is not a new phenomenon in the Caribbean. It's been in Jamaica for decades. However, it took the dramatic extradition of Christopher "Coke" Dudus in May 2010 for the world to realize how deeply ingrained and ingratiated Jamaican gangs such as Coke's "Shower Posse" were to the Jamaican political landscape. In 2007, Prime Minister Bruce Golding returned the JLP to power, while representing the very constituency that included Coke's hometown of Tivoli. In 2009, the United States indicted Coke and issued an extradition order for him. Golding refused to accept it, saying it included information from unauthorized wiretaps on Coke's phone.

What happened after was arguably Jamaica's darkest era in generations. Major General Stewart Saunders was the top military man on the island and a close ally of then Prime Minister Bruce Golding. His task? Make it all disappear, and protect Golding's reputation with the United States at all cost. An American Lockheed P-3 Orion spy plane was given airspace clearance to stream real-time footage to a frantic Saunders, who ordered Major Warrenton Dixon to fire mortars into the community. When the dust cleared, 73 bodies were removed in what is now known as the Tivoli Massacre.

In 2010, during the inquiry into the massacre, the attorney representing the Office of the Public Defender, Lord Anthony Gifford, postured that both Saunders and Dixon should be indicted for murder. Politics, again, came in to save the day, and instead, Dixon was allowed to retire as Chief of Defence Staff later that year. A few short years later, the "Butcher of Tivoli" was handed a lucrative contract as National Security Advisor to the Harris Administration in St Kitts and Nevis.

Gangsters in the Federation – be they from McKnight or Old Road or Lodge – are not terribly sophisticated. But they are learning. Saunders, the "Butcher of Tivoli", quickly realised that there was no chance he would get to fire a few mortars outside Basseterre, so another plan had to be hatched.

In true Daffy Duck fashion, this plan seemed "so crazy that it just might work".

Harris then systematically transformed the judicial and penal system, by placing only his most trusted people in the highest positions of authority. It was a pitiful move that showed that Harris had no real friends left, as these appointments were made to relatives only.

In particular, enter Deputy Commissioner of Corrections Denzil "Bull" Harris, and exit Prison Superintendent Junie Hodge. Denzil Harris was now in a position to identify, embrace and negotiate with gang leaders who were behind bars, seeking their favour in exchange for cold hard cash.

Hodge, for all his years of service in keeping the criminals away from society, was now relegated to working a security company to keep criminals at bay in society.

It's not an easy operation; to take taxpayers' dollars and hand it over to killers, while keeping it off the books. One would need a bank, and a banker. Fortunately for Prime Minister Harris, his brother Len just happens to be the boss at the Development Bank of St Kitts and Nevis.

From there, big brother Tim appropriated five million EC dollars to fund the Peace Initiative. The actual logistics of cash getting from the bank vault into gangs' coffers are still not clear. However, a number of names tend to surface when questions arise in this matter.

For one, Denzil Harris keeps a very tight circle within Her Majesty's Prison; namely Assistant Commissioners McArthur Browne and Adolph Harris. It is unthinkable that if collusion with gangsters were taking place, that these two senior men would not know about it.

There have been allegations that convicted fraudster-turned-radio talk-show host Niresh Nital has been observed having a lot of scheduled meetings with some of the major players, outside of his radio programme hours. Nital is also said to be favoured by the Attorney General himself, although Vincent Byron would surely deny such a claim.

But, as in all business transactions, the middle man is the key; the person who makes the markup. In this case, it is telling that such a middle man would have to be able to comfortably traverse political, prison and public boundaries freely. A prominent defence attorney in the likes of Dr Henry Browne may know such a person, but the question is if he would admit so.

Then again, as cutthroat a business that criminality is, there always seems to be some honour among thieves.

The gangsters have scored a pretty payday nonetheless. Foot soldiers receive EC $200 per week, while gang lieutenants get as much as EC $2,000 per week. Bear in mind, that this is occurring in a society in which the average worker may take home EC $1,800 after a month's labour.

With that said, the bigger question is how does Harris and Team Unity expect to sustain this project? Indeed, now that the criminals have come to the bargaining table, what's to stop them from "helping" with the election and then demanding an increase in payment? What happens when Harris can't offer that? What happens if Harris loses the election and an unsuspecting government is sworn in, only to face the wrath of shooters drug dealers who were dormant on the public dime? How many will die when the balance is interrupted?

These are the questions that all those who brokered this deal have failed to address. It's further proof of a stop-gap administration, rather than one focused on real, long-term development. This money could have been used in a myriad of other ways to save the undereducated and unemployed, and uplift the developmental status of the Federation, instead of lining the pockets of uneducated cowards who have managed to hold a bland administration to ransom. 

Joel B. Liburd
Communications Consultant, Basseterre/Quebec

 

COMMENTARY: The content of this oped is the sole responsibility of the author.

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Coronavirus latest: Dutch look into bringing expats in Wuhan home

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch government is considering evacuating the 20 or so Dutch nationals who live in Wuhan in China, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak.

So far, some 2,700 people have been diagnosed with the disease, mostly in China, and 81 people have died. Talks are under way with other EU member states and the Chinese authorities and the group of Dutch expats in the province have been briefed by embassy staff in Beijing, Dutch media report.

Damen Shipyards has also recalled three Dutch nationals working at a wharf in the Chinese province of Hubei, where Wuhan is located. There are four more Damen staffers working at another wharf in Hunan province.

Airline KLM has also said that travellers who have booked flights to China may cancel their tickets without cost. The offer applies to flights booked up to February 29.

A school exchange involving 20 Chinese pupils with a school in Roermond has also been cancelled because of the coronavirus scare.

Prepared

The Netherlands must take into account the fact that some people may become ill with the coronavirus, given it has now been identified in Europe, a senior Dutch public health official has told the Telegraaf.

‘In that sense, we are entirely dependent on how other countries deal with cases of infection,’ Jaap van Dissel, director of the infectious diseases’ unit at the RIVM public health agency is quoted as saying.

There have been several cases of the virus in France and one suspected case in Austria. Other cases have been identified in the US, Canada and Australia. Nevertheless, there is no reason to panic, Van Dissel told the Telegraaf.

‘Thanks to earlier outbreaks, such as Mexican flu, we have protocols to prevent disease spreading,’ he said. ‘And if the virus does pop up here, it will probably be confined to a handful of cases.’

(DutchNews)

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